by Christine Gauvreau
Right-wing ideologue Justin Raimondo’s article “Why is the Antiwar Movement Stalled? In Two Words: the Left” (antiwar.com, July 27, 2010) demonstrates very clearly that for the far right, or what is euphemistically called “traditional conservatism,” beating the drum for the “left-right coalition against Empire” is less about coalition and more about discrediting the left, the labor movement, and existing antiwar organizations.
To his shame, Raimondo uses red-baiting and scorn for the pain suffered by working people in his attempt to belittle one of the largest, most broadly sponsored, and democratic antiwar conferences held in recent decades. Because the conference was streamed live, thousands of activists shared in its deliberations.
Thirty-one national antiwar organizations sponsored the United National Antiwar Conference, held in Albany, N.Y., the weekend of July 23-25. Over 800 activists debated and voted on resolutions, and arrived at a national calendar of mobilizations—beginning on Aug. 28 in Detroit and Washington, D.C., gaining steam with the NAACP and AFL-CIO march on Washington on Oct. 2, and culminating on April 9 in huge antiwar marches projected for New York City and San Francisco.
These events and the breadth of their sponsorship will facilitate outreach into the neighborhoods, the unions, the churches, and the campuses. The conference outlined a national Bring the War Dollars Home campaign that we expect to be carried to hundreds of school boards and city councils, and to dozens of state legislatures, as part of preparations for April 9.
The antiwar movement is not stalled, as Raimondo alleges, but steadily reawakening. It is obvious that illusions in Obama and a Democratic Party Congress are on the wane and that confidence in the antiwar movement’s independent power is growing. Had Raimondo bothered to attend the conference—and had he bothered with the ABCs of journalism in order to get his facts straight—he might have picked up on the vitality and momentum that characterized the proceedings.
Although Raimondo implies that the 800 who attended the conference were merely dupes of Socialist Action, I think that the delegates of hundreds of grassroots antiwar organizations from towns all over the country would beg to differ. I serve on the Administrative Body of the National Assembly to End U.S. Wars and Occupations, an organization that came together three years ago to promote unity in the antiwar movement because I am an organizer with CT United for Peace and New England United, organizations that just six months ago put together a highly successful Boston antiwar conference of 400. This summer, just three years after its founding, the National Assembly was able to have partnered with dozens of national organizations of varied political outlooks to bring off the UNAC conference.
Breadth is the goal for all activists of good faith. Activists across the political spectrum, however, recognize that hard-working organizations like Socialist Action often play an extremely important role in keeping our antiwar coalitions intact when the staffs of larger organizations are lured away by the siren call of the elections.
Any serious student of history, as Raimondo styles himself in his blogs, should be aware of the destructive role played by McCarthyite red baiting in the 1950s. Today, the movement no longer accepts such crudeness; non-exclusion of the left became a principle of the antiwar movement during the war in Vietnam. The result, quite contrary to Raimondo’s current expectations, was the creation of an army of youth, inspired by the May-June ’68 uprising in France, and eager to engage working people and draw them into the streets. We surely need that army today. What does Raimondo offer instead as a workable strategy?
At least Raimondo is clear about what he is against! An antiwar movement led by the right, Raimondo suggests in his first paragraph, would not be wasting its time linking the fight against the war to the need for single-payer health care, the fight against petroleum-fueled global warming, or the threats by the government to reduce Social Security. He plainly states that an antiwar movement led by the right would not attempt to link up the wars against working people abroad with the war against working people here at home. His paradigm is the opposite: the fight to privilege Republic over Empire.
And what is the “Republic” that Raimondo refers to? The dismantling of the “welfare state” and the rolling back of the gains of the civil rights, women’s rights, and labor movements. It is opposition to climate controls in the name of the so-called free market. The libertarian and paleoconservative political figures to whom Raimondo looks for leadership are opposed to all the concessions that working people have managed to wring or tried to wring out of the corporate elite in the last 100 years—public education, a moderately dignified old age, medical coverage approaching that offered in the rest of the industrialized world, the right to a job.
In truth, the 21st-century version of the America First Movement of the 1930s, which Raimondo defends so vigorously, has already been created—by Ron Paul. But instead of attracting millions, it is scaring the living daylights out of anyone who doesn’t make six figures, as well as anyone of color or of the Islamic faith.
A trade-union acquaintance of mine remarked that the far right is opposed to the war abroad because it is interfering with their war on working people here at home. That’s how most working people see it. And those in Arizona being hunted by Posse Arpaio all know that Ron Paul is not against militarization when it occurs at the U.S.-Mexico border.
To see how the working people at the Albany conference reacted to the proposal by Kevin Zeese for the so-called left-right alliance against the war, you only need to watch the videos of the workshop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBPSuL62tTg
The truth is that this modern day America First Movement is not going to win support from the vast majority of working people. Its principles are antithetical to the social program supported by the vast majority of the nation. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to building a majority mass movement against the U.S. war machine. Let’s reaffirm that as our goal and get to work.